estate planning law firm

Massachusetts and Rhode Island Special Needs Planning 

 Families with loved ones who have developmental or physical disabilities engage in Special Needs Planning to ensure their children will be well cared for when parents are no longer able to do so. Elder Lawyer Jay Bianco has helped many families plan for the future of their Special Needs individuals. This includes:

  • Protecting the person’s eligibility for government benefits
  • Ensuring the person has the resources to have a comfortable life
  • Allowing the disabled person access to recreational and educational outlets
  • Making sure the disabled individual has access to good medical care

What Methods are Used for Special Needs Planning? 

A number of different legal strategies and financial tools are used to plan for the financial security of the Special Needs individual. They include but are not limited to Special Needs Trusts, ABLE Accounts, Wills, Guardianships, and Advanced Directives. 

Our firm also helps families apply for Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid and if need be, we can act as a trustee for a disabled loved one upon the death of their parents. 

What Directives are Needed for Disabled Individuals? 

The same documents needed in any estate plan are also needed for a special needs adult. When a special needs child turns 18, the parents lose their right to make decisions on behalf of their child. At this point it is necessary to either pursue guardianship or, depending on the disabled individual’s capacity, advanced directives can be used to allow parents to continue to manage their Special Needs child’s life. 

Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Living Will can be created so parents may continue to manage all aspects of their disabled child’s life. If the Special Needs individual has the capacity to execute these documents, parents may not need to pursue guardianship.   

What is a Special Needs Trust? 

While your loved one may receive government benefits, including Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, this may only be enough to cover the bare necessities of life. To ensure a better quality of life, parents often set up Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) to leave a certain amount of money for their loved one, without jeopardizing the disabled person’s eligibility to receive means-tested government benefits. 

Special Needs Trusts are created to be used for education, clothing, medical care not covered by Medicaid, recreation, and other needs. The assets in the trust are not owned by the disabled individual, as long as the trust is created properly and complies with the laws of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as the federal laws governing these programs.

What is an ABLE Account?  

ABLE Accounts were created by the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act in 2014, allowing people with disabilities to open state-run tax-advantages savings and investment accounts. They are different from Special Needs Trusts, and the two complement each other.  Only a disabled person can own an ABLE account, but friends, family members, an employer or the account owner’s Special Needs Trust can contribute funds to the account. 

The ABLE account allows individuals to save and invest money without impacting eligibility for public benefits. The individual and any other contributors may only deposit up to $16,000 per tax year into the account (the amount may be adjusted for inflation). In addition to the $16,000, an ABLE account owner may also contribute their compensation from working up to the federal poverty level amount for a one-person household. 

It should be noted that upon the death of the ABLE account owner, Medicaid may file a claim to all or a portion of the funds in the account equal to the amount in the state spent on the beneficiary through their state’s Medicaid program. 

Planning for the Parent’s Estate Plan

Estate planning for parents when there is a disabled child in the family requires special care. While siblings may be very responsible and well-meaning, leaving all assets to siblings and hoping they will do the right thing in caring for their disabled sibling is not an estate plan. Neither is leaving money outright to a disabled child, which will make them ineligible for government benefits and could undo years of careful planning and treatment.

If your family includes a Special Needs individual, contact our office to create a plan for their future. Everyone in the family will benefit from knowing the right plans are in place. 

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